Quick: Name all the things you miss about active duty. (If you still are active duty, then list all the things that make your life bearable as well as all the things you most hate.) Well, Mat Best and Jarred Taylor want to take you on a quick nostalgia trip through those memories of PT belts, buddies marrying strippers, and policing brass at the range.
You might remember Mat Best from his T-shirt company. Or the coffee company. Or that epic rap battle. Now, he’s dropped a new, soulful music video about how much veterans find themselves missing even the crappy parts of active duty, from the hot portajohn sessions to the mortar attacks to the PT belts. Turn it up loud in whatever cubicle you’re in.
Their new single Can’t Believe We Miss This is all about, well, the things you can’t believe you miss after getting that coveted DD-214. A quick note before you hit play: It’s not safe for younger viewers and only safe for work if your boss is super cool. There’s not nudity or anything, but they both use some words picked up in the barracks.
Oh, and there are a few direct references to how crappy civilian jobs with suit and ties can be, so your boss might not like that either.
But, yeah, the song is like sitting in an ’80s bar sipping drinks with buddies from your old unit, swapping stories about funny stuff like getting stuck on base after someone lost their NVGs and the serious, painful stuff like dudes who got blown up by mortars and IEDs.
And if you think Mat Best and Jarred Taylor skimped on production, then you’ve never seen their epic rap battle. So, yes, there are plenty of drone shots, weapons, and big military hardware like the HMMWV, aka humveee. It’s got more lens flare than a J.J. Abrams marathon and more explosions than Michael Bay’s house on Fourth of July.
And speaking of Independence Day, they dropped the video just in time for you to annoy the crap out of your family and friends with it wherever you’re partying. If you really want to do that but might not have good YouTube access, you can also watch the video on Facebook or buy it on iTunes.
I recently had the pleasure to read through the GoRuck Rucking White Paper. It’s basically 18,000+ words on everything you could ever want to know about moving long distances with weight on your back. A topic I am fond of reminiscing about.
Besides telling you to give it a read, print it out, and post it on your unit’s knowledge board I figured I would pull some of the greatness out of it for you as a nice preview of what to expect.
Looks way better than going for a “jog”.
On running in general
“And running sucks anyway, and the worst run is the first run, so there’s that.”
It sucks, but it’s an occupational hazard for many of you. The paper does an eye-opening job of explaining that rucking is actually a lower burden on the body in general when compared to standard running.
On Progressive Overload
“When I was a kid I thought that if I was going to start something new I needed to conquer Rome in a day…That’s not the approach we’re going for here. Your body needs to get used to the effects of a little extra weight on your back, then you need to back off and see how your body responds.”
Sound logic anyone can get behind.
Ruck it out.
“Move a mile with the same rucksack on, and you’ll notice that the last thing you want to do is collapse onto your front. The rucksack literally pulls your shoulders back.
Which is exactly where they should be.”
The argument can be made that rucking will destroy your back and posture. The white paper very smart responds with:
“Form, bitch.” (“my words, not theirs.”)
Like all things, including staring at your phone screen all day, rucking could cause back issues…IF YOU’RE DOING IT WRONG.
In fact, when all the great gouge in this document is applied a proper diet of rucking and beer (more on that shortly) will make you stronger, more resilient, and more posturally erect.
This is the same argument I use when explaining the benefits of the deadlift or back squat to anyone.
There is a huge difference between doing something and doing it properly.
You can eat spaghetti through your nose, sure, but there’s a better way that’s much less likely to deviate your septum.
On working out solely to “look good”
“The point is not to have a set of pretty abs so you can take mirror selfies. One of our Cadre taught me with a smile on his face a long time ago that only an asshole brings a six-pack to a party.”
Just an example of the types of life advice you can expect from the paper.
Log PT is always more fun with friends.
On #slayfest workouts
“Rucking goes counter to the online world of individualized fitness, and counter to the idea of fitness as punishment. Grab your ruck, put some weight in it, and go for a walk. It’s that simple, and it’s more fun with friends and when you’re done, don’t worry about how many calories are in your beer. How’s that for a change of pace?”
One thing is overwhelmingly clear from this paper. You aren’t going to be able to fill up your pack with 100lbs of weight and ruck 6-minute miles for 50 miles on day one. You’ll probably never get to that point.
Who would want to anyway? That sounds miserable even if you are physically capable of it.
The community the folks at GoRuck have garnered is about community, healthy lifestyle, and enjoying a brew. Not necessarily in that order. It’s not about being the hardest hammer in the shed.
There’s a time and place for 150% efforts once in a while. It’s not every day.
On what rucking actually is…
“Ruck Running — don’t do it. That’s one of the only main things I was always told. If you do, all of the risks from running are magnified, and it turns the low injury risk activity of rucking into the high injury risk activity of running…. But, there is a way to move faster than just walking, with a ruck on.”
I have a brief history of rucking. I did not know this.
When first reading through the section on proper form, I just shook my head at how foolish I was.
You live and you learn, I suppose.
Do yourself a favor and learn here before you try to live it.
Rucking is not running. Learn the form, and it will become slightly more enjoyable and a whole lot nicer on your joints.
Pizza. That is all.
On experience being a great teacher
“My feet had blisters on the underside, I had wanted to test out our new boots so I thought it would be a good idea to not change my socks the entire time even though it was a monsoon the night prior and they were wet for over nineteen hours. It was a poor choice. My thighs and my calves ached, and all I really wanted to do was sit on the ground and eat my pizza.”
I truly believe that Dominos may be the only thing on planet Earth calorically dense enough to replenish all of the lost nutrients after a 12+ hour effort.
Been there. Don’t regret it.
On the intention behind GORUCK
“What I never wanted the GORUCK Challenge to become was some sort of bootcamp. Been there, done that, don’t need to do that again.”
I was pleasantly surprised to see this. Bootcamp style fitness is only effective in the short run. Since rucking is a long-run activity (pun intended,) they have their heads in long term adherence.
It has science, humor, history, military doctrine, and no-nonsense logic.
If your unit has you moving any distance with weight on your back, this should be required reading.
Oh, one last quote…
On post-workout beers
“…I started calling Beer ACRT, for Advanced Cellular Repair Technology. People seemed to get it immediately, especially when we’d be done with a Challenge and then I’d crack open a case of beers and start passing them out.”
Air Force officials said this spring that the force was 1,555 pilots short — about 1,000 of them fighter pilots. But the shortage of pilots continued to grow during the 2017 fiscal year, which ended in September.
At that point, it had expanded to 2,000 total force pilots — active duty, Air National Guard, and Air Force Reserve. That includes nearly 1,300 fighter pilots, and the greatest negative trends over the past two fiscal years have been among bomber and mobility pilots, Air Force spokeswoman Erika Yepsen told Business Insider.
But fliers aren’t the only ones absent in significant numbers
According to Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein, the lack of maintainers to keep planes flying has also become a hindrance on the service’s operations.
“When I started flying airplanes as a young F-16 pilot, I would meet my crew chief … and a secondary crew chief at the plane,” said Goldfein, who received his commission from the U.S. Air Force Academy in 1983, in a briefing in early November, adding:
We’d walk around the airplane. I’d taxi out. I’d meet a crew that was in the runway, and they’d pull the pins and arm the weapons and give me a last-chance check. I’d take off. I’d fly to a destination [where] different crew would meet me. Here’s what often happens today: You taxi slow, because the same single crew chief that you met has to get in the van and drive to the end of the runway to pull the pins and arm the weapons. And then you sit on the runway before you take off and you wait, because that crew chief has to go jump on a C-17 with his tools to fly ahead to meet you at the other end. This is the level of numbers that we’re dealing with here.
U.S. Air Force Senior Airmen Krystalane Laird (front) and Helena Palazio, weapons loaders with the 169th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron at McEntire Joint National Guard Base, South Carolina Air National Guard, download munitions from an F-16 fighter jet that was just landed after a month-long deployment to Łask Air Base, Poland. (South Carolina Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Caycee Watson)
‘The tension on the force right now is significant’
The pilot and maintainer shortages are part of what Air Force officials have called a “national air-crew crisis” that has been stoked by nearly 30 years of ongoing operations, hiring by commercial airlines, as well as quality-of-life and cultural issues within the force that drive airmen away. In recent years, pressure from budget sequestration has also had a impact on Air Force personnel training and retention.
The maintainer shortage has been a problem for some time. In 2013, the total shortage was 2,538. But the force’s drawdown in 2014 — during which the Air Force shed more than 19,800 airmen — added to the deficit. Between 2013 and 2015, the shortage of maintainers grew by 1,217, according to Air Force Times.
By the end of fiscal year 2015, the service was short some 4,000 maintainers, Yepsen told Business Insider.
The shortage of maintainers created hardship for the ones who have remained.
The commander of the 52nd Maintenance Group at Spangdahlem Air Force Base in Germany told Air Force Magazine in late 2016 that workdays had stretched to 13 or 14 hours, with possible weekend duty meaning air crews could work up to 12 days straight. In the wake of the 2014 drawdown, maintainers at Shaw Air Force Base in South Carolina saw their workdays extend to 12 hours or more, with weekend duties at least twice a month.
“There comes a point where people stop and say it isn’t worth it anymore,” Staff Sgt. Stephen Lamb, an avionics craftsman from the 20th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron at Shaw, told Air Force Times in March. “I’ve seen, in the past few years, a lot of good friends walk out the door.”
As with pilots, the Air Force has made a concerted effort to improve its maintainer situation. In 2016, the force quadrupled the number of jobs eligible for initial enlistment bonuses — among them 10 aircraft maintenance and avionics career fields.
The Air Force has also offered senior crew chiefs and avionics airmen perks, such as reenlistment bonuses and high-year tenure extensions. At the end of 2016, 43 Air Force specialty codes, many of them flight-line maintainers, were being offered bonuses averaging $50,000 to remain in uniform for four to six more years.
Lt. Gen. Gina Grosso, the Air Force’s deputy chief of staff for manpower and personnel services, said earlier this year that the service closed 2016 with a shortage of 3,400 maintainers, warning that the ongoing shortage held back personnel development.
“Because of this shortage, we cannot generate the sorties needed to fully train our aircrews,” Grosso told the House Armed Services’ personnel subcommittee at the end of March.
According to Yepsen, the Air Force spokeswoman, that shortage has continued to decline, falling to 400 personnel at the end of fiscal year 2017. Several Air Force officials have said they hope to eliminate the maintainer shortage entirely by 2019.
But the health of the Air Force maintainer force won’t be solved by simply restoring its ranks. The complex aircraft the Air Force operates — not to mention the high operational tempo it looks set to continue for some time — require maintainers with extensive training. Air Force units can only absorb and train so many recruits at one time.
“We have to have time to develop the force to ensure that we have experienced maintainers to support our complex weapons systems,” then-Col. Patrick Kumashiro, chief of the Air Force staff’s maintenance division, told Air Force Magazine in late 2016. “We cannot solve it in one year.”
Heftier bonuses for senior air-crew members are also a means to keep experienced maintainers on hand for upkeep of legacy aircraft and to train new maintainers, with the addition of those new maintainers allowing experienced crew members to shift their focus to new platforms, like the F-35 fighter and the KC-46 tanker.
“While our manning numbers have improved, it will take 5-7 years to get them seasoned and experienced,” Yepsen told Business Insider. “We are continuously evaluating opportunities to improve our readiness as quickly and effectively as possible.”
“We’re making the mission happen, but we’re having to do it very often on the backs of our airmen,” Goldfein said during the November 9 briefing. “The tension on the force right now is significant, and so we’re looking for all these different ways to not only retain those that we’ve invested in, but increase production so we can provide some reduction in the tension on the force.”
The German Navy in World War II found a clever but risky method of extending their submarine patrols by building “milk cows,” specialized submarines covered in fuel tanks to refuel their brethren, and drawing the fire of American destroyer and planes.
Submarines were a game-changing weapon in World War I and remained a great strategic tool in World War II, allowing relatively few men to destroy enemy ships, drowning enemy personnel and destroying important ordnance. But they had a range problem.
The German U-461, a milk cow. It was sunk July 30, 1943, with another milk cow and an attack submarine.
The German standard in World War II was the Type VII C, which had “saddle tanks” that could hold enough fuel for a patrol of 6,500 miles, which might sound like a lot — but is actually fairly limited. U-Boats needed enough fuel to get from their pens, to the start of their patrol, through their route, and then back to the pen. Attacking ships near the U.S. east coast or the Caribbean required a 5,000-mile round trip, leaving just 1,500 miles’ worth of fuel for actually patrolling and attacking.
So, naval planners and engineers came up with a crafty solution: Turn some submarines, dubbed “milk cows,” into refuelers by strapping massive tanks to the outside, and have them refuel the other subs. The milk cows also carried medical personnel and necessary supplies.
This allowed the German submarines to move farther into the Atlantic, preying on convoys that would’ve otherwise thought they were safe. Better, it allowed the submarines to stay on patrol longer, meaning that German subs with the milk hookup were now limited only by mechanical issues. A single milk cow could tend to about 12 other subs.
The USS Cory, top right, attacks U-801, a German submarine that was attempting a linkup with the milk cow U-488, which the Cory was hunting. Cory never found U-488, which was later sunk by an aircraft from the USS Croatan in April, 1944, while attempting to link up with a boat that needed medical assistance.
Germany ordered 10 of them, and they became one of the most important assets in the Atlantic Ocean.
But the Americans and their allies understood how the milk cows tipped the balance, and they prioritized targeting them. The Allied Naval Headquarters in London ordered, “Get the Milk Cows at any cost!” a message that supposedly originated with Prime Minister Winston Churchill, who later said that the U-boats were his only real fear.
Once the Allies captured the German enigma machine and built up their anti-submarine warfare fleets, open season was declared on milk cows, and the milk cows were uniquely vulnerable.
The milk cow U-459 sinks after suffering an attack from an English bomber.
(Photo: Royal Air Force, Public Domain)
While they could dive deeper than other ships thanks to a thicker hull, they were more bulbous and took longer to get underwater at all. And they were larger, making them easier to spot both with the naked eye and with sonar or radar. But most importantly, they relied on high-frequency radio waves to make contact with their supported subs and set up rendezvous. Since the Allies could read those transmissions, they could crash the parties and strike the cows.
The first was sank by good luck in August 1942 when a seaplane happened over the milk cow U-464 at sea on its maiden patrol. The seaplane, a Catalina, damaged it with depth charges and radioed its position to nearby ships. The commander scuttled the boat to prevent its capture.
Open season on milk cows started the following May. The boat U-463 was spotted on the surface by a British bomber, which managed to drop a number of depth charges directly onto the ship before it could register the danger and dive. It went down with all hands.
The following June, four milk cows were sank, two of them in one battle. Boats U-461 and U-462 were working together on a single German sub when all three were spotted by Allied bombers. The bombers radioed the position and began their attack. The submarines put up a stiff resistance, but ended up prey to the 5 bombers and multiple surface ships that arrived on scene. All three sank.
By October 1943, only three milk cows remained either in the fleet or under active construction. All three would sink before the war ended.
Modern U.S. subs have no need of milk cows and can actually spend an entire cruise undersea with no resupply.
(U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Jeffrey M. Richardson)
The U.S. Navy in World War II relied on surface ships as submarine tenders, but even that role has been largely phased out as America focuses on nuclear-powered submarines that can stay at sea for months without assistance, generating their own power and cleansing their own water thanks to the nuclear reactor. They can even create their own oxygen to stay under longer.
Eventually, the ships do need fresh food, but that’s generally achieved when crews rotate out. There’s simply no need for modern milk cows.
In this episode of the Mandatory Fun podcast, Blake, Shannon, Tim, and O.V. discuss the interesting process of how Air Force pilots receive their callsigns.
In the military, callsigns are considered much more than just a name — they’re meant to capture the personality and spirit of the person.
When you think of the characters in “Top Gun,” you’re not thinking of Pete Mitchell or Nick Bradshaw — it’s Maverick and Goose, and they probably have hilarious stories that explain where those names came from. Those stories are told in a naming ceremony.
The details and traditions vary, but the rite of passage is usually met with drinks and shenanigans. Like a roast, the pilot sits front and center while his or her buddies one-by-one regale a story and propose a callsign related to it.
“It’s kind of like a roasting,” Air Force veteran Shannon Corbeil humorously explains. “This is where you get to make fun of your friends.”
The squadron then collectively debates and votes on the final name.
Jumping from a perfectly good airplane is inherently dangerous, even for qualified Army Airborne personnel. Why someone would fake their way into jumping without being certified or trained is anyone’s guess, but there was Staff Sgt. Joshua Stokes in August 2014, making the jump. Somehow, he landed like a paratrooper, and no one would figure out his entire Army life was a sham.
Not yet, anyway.
Stokes was on his way to a staff position at his battalion headquarters when his company’s Air NCO noticed something was off about his Airborne Graduation Certificate. His was the only one in the entire 82d whose name wasn’t printed in all caps. It was just the first in a long line of falsified documents that Stokes had in his service record. The Air NCO wasn’t going to let it go. When Stokes wouldn’t produce the paperwork for his parachutist badge, he called Fort Benning’s Airborne School.
That’s when the 82d Airborne discovered Staff Sgt. Joshua Stokes had never attended Airborne School. And the long effort to unravel all of Stokes’ false records began. It wasn’t only that he wasn’t jump qualified. There was much, much more, according to an Army Times story from 2018.
A U.S. Soldier jumpmaster, assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division instructs Paratroopers from various units during pre-jump training at Pope Army Airfield, N.C., Aug. 7, 2019. Paratroopers perform routine airborne proficiency training to maintain their skills and keep readiness alive.
(U.S. Army Photo by Sgt. Gin-Sophie De Bellotte)
An Army investigation discovered the soldier had been sending false documents to the Electronic Military Personnel Office for almost as long as he’d been in the military. Some falsehoods were small, like claiming to have attended Sniper School and even being an instructor there for three years. Others were egregious, like claiming to have received the Purple Heart and Good Conduct Medal – for a time period before he was ever in the Army.
Stokes’ graduation certificate was dated for a Sunday, not a Friday as per Airborne tradition. HIs jump log lists dates of jumps he made when he was actually stationed with the 10th Mountain Division. He had never attended Sniper School, let alone work as an instructor. Stokes claimed to have finished Jump School, but he had never received jump pay. For all his denials, there are photos of Stokes wearing the Purple Heart in his dress uniform. Stokes’ Good Conduct Medal dates back to January 1992, when he was still in high school. He not only faked his way into the famed unit, he had faked his way through almost his entire Army career.
U.S. Army Paratroopers of the 82nd Airborne Division go through pre-jump safety procedures, Aug. 7, 2019, at Pope Army Airfield, N.C. During this procedure strong emphasis is placed on the way troops exit the Paratroop door to maximize their safety during the operation.
(U.S. Army Photo by Sgt. Gin-Sophie De Bellotte)
The real Stokes entered the military in the California National Guard with the name Asche before changing his name to Stokes. As Stokes, he entered active duty in May 2003. His first assignment was at Fort Drum with the 10th Mountain Division. His record shows he was a sniper then, but the Army’s Sniper School has no record of that. Army investigators found that at least ten false documents had been added on a single day in 2007.
Army Times found Stokes on Facebook and reached out for comment, but none was forthcoming. The Army confirmed with Army Times that Stokes was administratively separated from the Army sometime between the start of the investigation and the writing of the Army Times story, but could not explain why, as those records are protected by privacy laws. One thing is for certain, the Army believes Stokes falsified all the questionable documents and added them to his record on his own.
I’m currently waging a losing battle. It’s a fight against time and nature and after nearly two months of self-isolation, I stink. Now, don’t get me wrong. I have showered and shaved along the way but there is just something else lingering around, like the sand that still cakes my boonie cover ten years after a deployment. I just can’t shake off the stink of mediocrity that comes from doing the same thing day in and day out.
You don’t have to deploy or self-isolate during a pandemic to understand the basics of hygiene. Cleanliness is not only an amazing feeling but also a state of being. From boot camp to deployments, in the military, we learn that a clean mind, body and equipment is key to mission success in any environment. It’s that logic that drives the team at BRAVO SIERRA. The team is comprised of Special Operations veterans and a team of rockstar personal care product gurus that have led brands such as Kiehl’s and Harmless Harvest, BRAVO SIERRA is a company that believes in achieving peak human performance through hygiene and their products are held to a pretty high standard.
Field testing is the backbone of BRAVO SIERRA’s model and it’s a process that is rooted in their numerous deployments overseas. Simply, you test your equipment before you go into battle. So when BRAVO SIERRA was setting up shop to design a list of products ranging from body wash to hair gel to deodorant and even moist wipes for some of the most high performing people on earth (military, law enforcement, athletes, etc), it only makes sense that they would go back to the tribe.
In that spirit, I decided to sign up for the field testing trial but instead of testing these products on some mission overseas, I am going to test them in the comfort (not really) of social isolation. After a detailed scrub and shave, which I will not detail, I walked away not only feeling clean but also thinking clean. As I am about to exit the bathroom, my wife casually mentions, “you smell nice.” As I look in the mirror, I have something back… Confidence.
Like a well-oiled weapon before the rifle range, cleanliness really is the basis for peak performance. So I reached out to Charles Kim, Co-Founder of BRAVO SIERRA and former officer with the elite 75th Ranger Regiment, to understand more about how the hygiene and military worlds really do collide in a positive way at BRAVO SIERRA.
Bravo Sierra team, Charles Kim in lower left. (Courtesy of Charles Kim)
WATM: Most people don’t normally think about high-tech hygiene/personal care products in a Special Ops kit bag, but BRAVO SIERRA has cracked the code. How did you guys come up with the idea that crosses between two worlds?
Charles: We’re a Human-Centric Company first. We think about the things you put on and in your body, and how that affects your performance. We launched our hygiene products because it’s the simplest way to demonstrate who you are.
WATM: How so?
Charles: How you present yourself is actually the best way to exemplify your values and the first building block is hygiene. Think about going to an NCO board. What’s the first thing they look at? Hygiene, the way you present yourself. Whether you’re going to a board, an interview or a first date, we want our products to highlight the respect and values you have for yourself.
Bravo Sierra team, Charles Kim in lower left. (Courtesy of Charles Kim)
WATM: Does that focus on values and respect come for your military service?
Charles:Military values inspire our company values, but we believe these values should go beyond to the broader population. For me, having that military DNA is a part of who we are but not all. Take my relationship with Justin and Benjamin, the founders and co-CEOs. We come from completely different worlds. They’re leaders in the consumer goods world with decades of experience in the food, beverage, and personal care industry, but they wanted to create a brand that is built off unifying values – and there’s nothing more unifying than the values of integrity, respect, and selflessness. And we believe in this mission.
WATM: Everything is in a name. Why BRAVO SIERRA?
Charles: I’ll be the first to admit I had some reservations about the name because it can be reduced to BS or bullshit, right? But that’s exactly the point…I think it’s beautiful because it’s all just tongue and cheek. If you really think about what’s in a brand’s name like Nike, Adidas, Apple and all these companies, it’s essentially just a marketing tool. So we said let’s just focus on the people and the values that we care about in the high performance community first. There’s no BS in that.
WATM: Fair enough. So my next question is all about you. How did you go from the Ranger Regiment to becoming an entrepreneur?
Charles:It’s funny, I haven’t talked about this in a really long time. I think I went through what most veterans do: you get out, look at what your peers do, find something that sounds interesting and go try it out. So I worked for two software startups prior to this. It was really fascinating, and I learned a lot around how technology can help us do things better, faster, and more efficiently. At BRAVO SIERRA, we’re using the same agile development principles used in building software to rapidly engineer value-based products for our community. We validated this with our hygiene products and are leveraging that same framework to launch our food and nutrition products later this year.
WATM: Anything that you learned in the military that’s helped you?
Charles: I’ve worked for some pretty amazing people and I’ve also worked for some pretty horrible ones. We all have right? I look at leadership as a way to develop and cultivate people to find certain areas where they can thrive. For me, it was always about using data to improve the process of building something in industries that can use some change, and using this information to make decisions- smarter and faster. But as a leader I knew not everyone would have the same interests so I had to find what each of my team members were passionate about and invest time developing their skills that will ultimately make them successful. It’s really that simple. Take care of your people. It’s cheesy, but it’s true.
WATM: You’ve made it your mission to test every BRAVO SIERRA product with operators both in the field and in daily life (like me at home). Why was this so important to you/your team?
Charles: We didn’t want to make products like how it’s been done before. That is, in a vacuum, where the consumer has to discover what they like. Instead, we knew the community we were trying to serve so we thought let’s send our products out to the people who will use it and they can validate whether or not the stuff makes sense. So I sent prototypes of our hygiene products to a few former colleagues across the military that I worked with and said let me know what you guys think. It snowballed from there, they shared the products with a few others and few others and we had so much feedback that we had to build a technology loop into our field testing. Now, people can sign up on our website and test our products, from new hygiene products to our flagship nutrition line.
WATM: Who are the primary testers? Are they all military?
Charles: We’ve reached out to everyone from road bikers, CrossFitters, kayakers, hunters to the first responder community, ie. EMT, police and firefighters – really anyone we think pushes themselves to be a better version of themselves every day. Our platform has helped us democratize the process so we can work faster with all this information coming in real time. We’re actually flipping the model on its head. We are committed to the mantra that the product you buy tomorrow is going to be better than the one you buy today.
WATM: Any field test success stories?
Charles: Yes! The cleansing bar that we launched in partnership with the Navy SEAL Foundation. It’s literally a four-in-one for your entire body – hair, beard, skin and face. When we first sent out our 4-in-1 gel to a lot of the guys deployed overseas, we got the feedback that they had limited water and a gel doesn’t really work. I reviewed this information with Benjamin, one of the founders and co-CEOs, and confirmed the data points validated the need for a solid version of the gel. And he was like, ‘all right, let’s make it right now.” Within six months, we identified that there was a market need and we launched the solid cleansing bar.
WATM: You offer 5% of your Revenue (Not Profit) to the MWR and Community Services. Why? What was the story here?
Charles:I’m forever indebted to the military for providing me lifelong friends. And as a company, the military field-testing program – what we call BATTALION – has been crucial to getting us to this point. For us, we always knew we needed to figure out a way to give back to an organization and picked what we believe is universal for the military – the MWR and community services on bases all across the world. My first deployment was as an infantry platoon leader with the 101st Airborne Division and the MWR was where everyone went to watch TV, go to the gym or to call their families. It also represents what BRAVO SIERRA is all about at the core; we want to support outlets that support the military community with resources to exercise or to go outside with their family and have fun.
WATM: Where do you see BRAVO SIERRA in 5 years?
Charles:Our motto is that the we believe the human body is our most important system, and our mission is to make products that improve performance potential. In 5 years, I hope that we are known as the de-facto leader in delivering products with purpose – better and faster- ranging from hygiene to food and nutrition, alongside our community of high-performers.
For more information or to sign up as a field tester, click here!
Special operations forces have long been fans of the C-130. Why not? It’s one of the most versatile platforms available. The basic transport has been a standby for airborne units over the years, but when it comes to carrying the precious cargo that is American special operations forces, no ordinary Hercules will do.
Over the course of several decades, the Air Force has developed advanced versions of the C-130 platform to be used specifically by special operations. One of the first was a variant of the old C-130E, dubbed the MC-130E “Combat Talon,” which entered service in 1966. The MC-130P “Combat Shadow,” derived from the HC-130P, entered service in 1986. The MC-130H was a special-operations version of the C-130H that entered service in 1991.
All of these planes, however, are pretty old by now.
A MC-130J with the 413th Flight Test Squadron takes off. Note the winglets on the plane.
(USAF photo by Samuel King)
The C-130J version of the Hercules entered service in 1999, replacing aging C-130E models. Continuing the tradition of its predecessors, the C-130J was also modified for use by special operations forces. Older MC-130Es and MC-130Ps were first in line to be replaced by a total of 37 MC-130Js, according to a United States Air Force fact sheet.
The MC-130J first entered service in 2011. It was given the name “Commando II,” taking on the designation of the Curtiss-Wright C-46 “Commando,” a cargo plane that mostly saw action in the Pacific Theater of World War II and was retired in 1968.
A new MC-130J Commando II taxis on the flightline at Cannon Air Force Base, N.M.
(USAF photo by Senior Airman James Bell)
The MC-130J has a top speed of 415 miles per hour and an unrefueled range of 3,000 miles. It’s capable of refueling up to four helicopters or tiltrotors at a time. It’s also equipped with advanced electro-optical and infra-red sensors.
Learn more about this impressive special-ops plane in the video below!
Seeing the world is just one of the many reasons for joining the military. But what if dreamy vacation living was possible within the continental borders? Taking advantage of what is possible within a day’s drive is one way to save thousands on airfare and explore more of what our country has to offer.
Strategize your next PCS choice with these staycation worthy locations. From the beaches to the mountains, and east to west, settling into ‘home’ at any one of these installations is easy to do.
Mountain Home AFB, Idaho (Air Force)
Nestled at the foot of the Sawtooth Range, and within a half day’s drive to both Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Park, Mountain Home AFB is an outdoor enthusiast’s dream. There’s world-class skiing at Sun Valley in the winter with plenty of roadside accessible hot springs along the way. Idaho isn’t on your radar because she’s everyone’s best-kept secret.
NAS Whidbey Island, Washington (Navy)
Craggy coastlines, tide pools teeming with sea life, and million-dollar views are how to describe this installation just over an hour north of Seattle. The barrier islands of the Puget Sound are home to seductively slow island life, away from traffic, and a ferry away from Olympic National Park or the San Juan Islands. Watch both whales and submarines surface from one of the dozens of state parks by the fire and on the beach.
Fort Carson, Colorado (Army)
Located just outside the Garden of the Gods, this Army Installation is another ruggedly beautiful spot to call home. The state exudes adventure in all terrain types, like sand dunes, snow-capped peaks and breathtaking arch formations. Colorado experiences all four seasons, providing a little something for every preference. Your PT test is sure to stay on point during the winter season with infamous ski resorts like Breckenridge and Telluride to choose from.
Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia (Air Force and Army)
What we love about JBLE is the easy accessibility to all the major east coast metropolitan cities. Washington D.C., Baltimore, Philadelphia and New York City are all a connected train ride away. National history, monuments and bustling nightlife make life on this coastline more than noteworthy. In addition to city life, Virginia is home to Shenandoah National Park and fall foliage, which draws crowds year-round. Tapping into history or the political pulse of the country are all possible here.
MCAS Beaufort, South Carolina (Marines)
Life in the low country is slow and sweet. The tidewater region is situated between Charleston, South Carolina and Savannah, Georgia, two historic southern towns rich with seafood and charm. A subtropical climate provides beach access year-round, with plenty of sunshine to boost any mood. Another point to love is the affordability of the region compared to other, more high-cost stations, putting more vacation dollars into your pocket.
Sector Key West, Florida (Coast Guard)
The southernmost point in the continental U.S. is as beautiful as you can imagine. Dolphins, coral reefs and sailboats are all at your doorstep, which is likely oceanfront. Lesser known, yet completely noteworthy interests like the Hemingway Home and Dry Tortugas National Park are also found here. Key West also boasts several shipwrecks to explore in turquoise waters, making a dive certification a card you need in your wallet.
It’s all about location, and there’s plenty to choose from during your military career. Europe and Hawaii are not the only prime spots to be had, and this list is proof. Experiencing life in varied climates and states provides a perspective unlike any other when the time comes to settle down after service.
The chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee sharply criticized the Navy’s failures with the new USS Gerald R. Ford aircraft carrier, saying that these missteps “ought to be criminal.”
During the confirmation hearing for Vice Adm. Michael Gilday, who is set to become the next chief of naval operations, Sen. Jim Inhofe, a Republican from Oklahoma, unleashed a string of criticisms about the first ship of the Navy’s Ford-class carriers.
“The ship was accepted by the Navy incomplete, nearly two years late, two and a half billion dollars over budget, and nine of eleven weapons still don’t work with costs continuing to grow,” the senator said.
“The Ford was awarded to a sole-source contractor,” which was asked to incorporate immature technologies “that had next to no testing, had never been integrated on a ship — a new radar, catapult, arresting gear, and the weapons elevators,” he continued, adding that the Navy entered into this contract “without understanding the technical risk, the cost, or the schedules.”
“This ought to be criminal,” he said, further criticizing what he called the Navy’s “arrogance.”
The cost of the USS Gerald R. Ford, according to the latest report to Congress, has ballooned to just over billion, well over budget, and when the ship completes post-sea trial maintenance and is returned to the fleet in October — it was initially supposed to return in July but was delayed — it still won’t be working properly.
Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer bet his job on a promise to President Trump that the advanced weapons elevators would be ready to go by the end of the current maintenance period, but the Navy has already said that is not going to happen.
Only a handful of the advanced weapons elevators, a critical internal system required to move weapons to the flight deck, increase aircraft sortie rates and increase the overall lethality of the ship will be operational when the USS Gerald R. Ford returns to the fleet this fall.
The Navy has had to call in outside experts to try to find a solution to this particular problem.
See What Life Is Like On A US Navy Carrier | Military Insider
Gilday, who was asked to comment seeing that this issue “is going to be dumped in your lap,” as the senator explained, assured Inhofe that if he is confirmed as the Navy’s next top admiral, he will push the service to ensure that taxpayer dollars are not wasted.
“I share your concern,” he told the senator, explaining that the current status is unacceptable. “We need all 11 elevators working in order to give us the kind of redundancy and combat readiness that the American taxpayer has invested in this ship.”
“We’ve had 23 new technologies introduced on that ship,” he added. “Of those, four were immature when we commissioned Ford in 2017. We have seen progress in the launching system, the arresting gear and also with the dual-band radar. The reliability of those systems is trending in the right direction and actually where we want to be based on the last at-sea testing.”
Gilday characterized the elevators as the last remaining “hurdle” to getting the Ford out to sea.
He assured lawmakers that the Navy will take the lessons of the Ford and apply them to not only all future Ford-class carriers, but also the Columbia-class ballistic missile submarines.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Marine Corps Air Station Futenma hosted the 2019 Okinawa Futenma Bike Race for the local and military community July 14, 2019, on MCAS Futenma, Okinawa, Japan.
The starting line was crowded with cyclists on edge and eager to hear the crack of a starting pistol. The blank round was fired, the timer started, and the cyclists took off. Friends and families cheered on their loved ones as they departed from the start line to negotiate their way through Futenma’s runways.
175 participants; a mix of Status of Forces Agreement personnel and Okinawan community members participated in the 2019 Futenma bike race.
Participants competing on road bikes took a 44 kilometer route, whereas participants on mountain bikes took on a 22 kilometer route.
(Photo by Lance Cpl. Christopher Madero)
The airfield was closed for a 24-hour period to allow competitors to test the runways surface. Marine Corps aviation technologies were displayed for all participants to enjoy as they continued throughout the race’s route.
Every rider that made their way past the finish line was greeted with applause and cheers from the audience that awaited their finish.
(Photo by Lance Cpl. Christopher Madero)
I think this a great opportunity to host people aboard the air station to get people out and exercise. — Col. David Steele, dedicated tri-athlete, commanding officer of MCAS Futenma, and competitor in the race
“Friendship through sport is a big part of what Marine Corps Community Services and Futenma wants to do”
The event was hosted by Marine Corps Community Services, a comprehensive set of programs that support and enhance the operational readiness, war fighting capabilities, and life quality of Marines, their families, retirees and civilians.
This article originally appeared on Marines. Follow @USMC on Twitter.
It’s good to have friends in high places, especially when you can do almost nothing in return. One Afghan family found that out when they asked the CIA for help in rescuing their daughter from the Taliban, just as the U.S. was preparing to invade the country.
So it has nothing to do with the Soviet Union.
The first Americans inside of Afghanistan were teams of what has come to be known as “the Horse Soldiers,” advanced units from the CIA’s special activities division. They were US special operators and CIA officers that were helping coordinate multiple units of anti-Taliban Afghan resistance fighters. The Northern Alliance fighters combined with the direction of the CIA and the support of the U.S. military were able to overthrow the regime without the use of traditional ground forces in many areas.
They were so effective at fomenting resistance to the Taliban and persuading the locals to their cause, they were not only able to capture entire cities and provinces but were also able to transform the lives of individual families. One such family approached a CIA hideout one day, asking for a favor.
Where the first CIA officers in Afghanistan slept.
The smoke had barely cleared at Ground Zero in New York City before the United States sent CIA teams into Afghanistan to coordinate the resistance to the Taliban. But first, they needed the most up-to-date intelligence. The first Northern Alliance Liaison Team landed in Afghanistan on Sept. 26, 2001. They brought everything they needed to sustain them for however long their mission would take – including 40 pounds of potatoes. Sleeping in a traditional Afghan mud hut, they braved the winter as they gathered info for the coming revenge against al-Qaeda.
One day a young boy approached their shack and told them of the plight of his teenage sister. A local Taliban warlord forcefully took her as a bride, and she was no longer able to spend time with the family. Since this was long before politics would enter the relationship between US personnel and Afghan locals, the CIA officers gave the boy a tracking device and told him to give it to his sister, who should activate it when the warlord returns home.
Northern Alliance fighters in the Panjshir Valley, September 2001.
When she did, the team swooped in on the Taliban leader. They raided his compound, rescued this sister and returned her to her brother and her family. The senior Taliban leader was one of the first enemy targets of the coming Global War on Terror.
The littoral combat ship was intended to carry out a wide variety of missions for the United States Navy in the 21st century. From mine-countermeasures to coastal anti-submarine warfare to combating small and fast enemy surface craft, these vessels are intended to fight and win. But how well would they fare against perhaps the epitome of the small fast surface craft in World War II?
The PT boat was built in very large numbers by the United States during World War II. While its most famous exploits were in the Philippines in late 1941 and early 1942, particularly the evacuation of General Douglas MacArthur, these boats saw action in all theaters of the war. There were two primary versions of the PT boat: The Higgins and the Elco.
These boats had slight variations in a number of sub-classes, but their main armament was four 21-inch torpedoes. In addition to the powerful torpedoes, the PT boats also packed two twin .50-caliber mounts. Other guns, ranging from additional .50-caliber machine guns to a variety of automatic cannons ranging from 20mm Oerlikons to the 37mm guns used on the P-39 Airacobra, to 40mm Bofors also found their way onto PT boats – and the acquisitions may not have been entirely… official.
USS Freedom (LCS 1) is one of the lead ships of the two classes of littoral combat ship in service at present.
(Photo by U.S. Navy)
Now, the littoral combat ships also come in two varieties: The Freedom-class monohull design and the Independence-class trimaran design. Their standard armament consists of a 57mm main gun, a number of .50-caliber machine guns, a launcher for the RIM-116 Rolling Airframe Missile, and two MH-60 helicopters. Modules can add other weapons, including 30mm Bushmaster II chain guns, surface-launched AGM-114 Hellfire missiles, and even the Harpoon or Kongsberg Naval Strike Missile as heavier anti-ship missiles.
This was one of 45 PT boats at the Battle of Surigao Strait in October 1944.
(Photo by U.S. Navy)
Looking at just the paper, you’d think that the littoral combat ship has an easy time blowing away a PT boat. In a one on one fight, you’re correct. But the whole point of the PT boat wasn’t to just have one PT boat – it was to have a couple dozen attacking at once. The classic example of this was the Battle of Surigao Strait, part of the Battle of Leyte Gulf, in October 1944. According to Volume XII of Samuel Eliot Morison’s History of United States Naval Operations in World War II, “Leyte,” the Japanese force heading up Surigao Strait was facing 45 PT boats.
A Mk 13 torpedo is launched from a PT boat. Now imagine that over a hundred have been launched at your force.
(Photo by U.S. Navy)
Never mind the fact that those PT boats were backed by six older battleships, four heavy cruisers, two light cruisers, and 28 destroyers, the sheer number of PT boats had an effect against a force of two Japanese battleships, one heavy cruiser, and two light cruisers. Incidentally, only one Japanese destroyer survived that battle.
USS Independence’s helicopters and onboard weapons would help it put up a good fight, but sheer numbers could overwhelm this vessel.
(Photo by U.S. Navy)
The same situation would apply in a PT boat versus littoral combat ship fight. The littoral combat ship’s MH-60 helicopters would use AGM-114 Hellfires to pick off some of the PT boats, but eventually the numbers would tell. What could make things worse for the littoral combat ship is if those PT boats were modified to fire modern 21-inch torpedoes. Such a hack is not out of the question: North Korea was able to graft a modern anti-ship torpedo onto a very low-end minisub and sink a South Korean corvette.